Amplifier Technology Incorporated's John Baloff showed me their new 4007 class-D amplifier during a brief visit to their room. "Baby brother" to the company's 6000 amplifier, the 4007 ($2995 for the 2-channel version; the amplifier is available in 4-, 8- or 12 channel versions) delivers 180Wpc into 8 ohms, using new "extremely quiet" NCore class-D modules.
The Audio Power Labs exhibit took my breath away, Imagine, a huge, beautiful $175,000 per pair, 200Wpc monoblock tube amplifier using 833C, graphite-plate, radio-frequency transmitter tubes that have a bandwidth of 30MHz and run with 1500V on the plates! These tubes were used in the output stage of BCF-1 radio transmitters. Now imagine that the amplifier's designers are named Squeek Rieker (right) and Peeya Iwagoshi (left), and you know why I had to pinch myself to make sure I wasn't dreaming.
Audio Research's Director of Marketing, Brandon Lauer, gave me a tour of the company's new value-oriented components, including the $16,000 GSi75 tubed amplifier rated at 75Wpc; $14,000 Reference Preamplifier 6; and the Reference Phono Preamplifier 3. Audio Research has replaced the KT-120 output tubes in all their amplifiers, including the GSi75, with the Sovtek KT-150 because of its superior reliability and longevity.
Audio Research's Chris Ossanna proudly shows off the company's new $25,000/pair, two-chassis Reference 250 monoblocks, which employ the new KT-120 output tube. This amplifier has 50% more power-supply capacitance than their previous flagship, the Reference Anniversary 110, and uses the same type of Teflon coupling capacitors they sourced for their Reference Anniversary preamplifier. The front panel metering allows the consumer to check the bias and to adjust the speed of their response to either fast or slow.
Stereophile's Jon Iverson grabbed me in the hallway of the Venetian Hotel's 35th floor. He was excited. "You've got to see Avantgarde's new loudspeaker on the 31st floorit's full of features not found in most other loudspeakers." I rushed down the back stairs of the Venetian, and found Avantgarde's Executive Manager, Armin Krauss, who walked me through the $18,500/pair, three-way, Zero 1 loudspeaker.
Axiss Audio’s attractive setup at the Venetian highlighted AirTight's huge ATM-3011 monoblock amplifiers ($50,000/pair). The amps were part of a system that included the Focal Scala loudspeakers ($30,000), Transrotor Rondino turntable ($14,000), SME V tonearm ($5,000), AirTight PC-1 moving-coil cartridge ($11,000), AirTight ATC-2 line preamplifier ($11,000), AirTight ATE-2 phono stage ($15,000), and ATH02 step-up transformer ($5,000). The sound was involving and dynamic.
Brent Hefley, Marketing Manager of Ayre, walked me through the circuit layout of Ayre's newest amplifier, the $14,950, dual-mono, 200Wpc (8 ohms) VX-R. Based on the well-regarded and long-established MX-R monoblock and introduced at the 2011 CES, the VX-R uses Ayre's ultra-fast printed circuit board materials. Ayre is expecting great things, Brent told JA, from its recent hiring of ex-Classé and Linn engineer Alan Clark, who joins Charlie Hansen and Ariel Brown as the Colorado company's creative engine.
B&W's openng day press conference at the LVCC revealed an entirely new line of Diamond Series loudspeakers in a new piano-black finish. This new vintage comes from the line of monitors that included the Diamond Silver Signature ,an $18,000/pair high-end two-way that had been produced in a limited run of 1000 pairs. The smallest member of this speaker line is a two-way, stand-mounted monitor called the B&W 805 Series Diamond, a strong value at $5000/pair. The stands are extra, but are now available in black.
This compact, $1600/pair monitor employs many of the same design features found in the company's highly rated Matrix 801 system. Although the price is high for a two-way minimonitor, the 805 fits right into a growing high-end marketplace for such designs, one which emphasizes high quality in a small enclosure which will fit into most living-room environments without calling much attention to itself.